Road Trip USA 2003

Tim, Kevin, & I decided to go to San Francisco, CA. We rented a Chevy Suburban and wired it with a CB radio, 2 laptops with navigation, and power strips for phone chargers, inverters, GPS for navigation, and whatever else we might need. We left Pennsylvania on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2003 around 5pm and drove non-stop until we stopped for gas on the east edge of St. Louis, MO. We napped in the Sub a little until the tourist stuff opened in St. Louis, then rollerbladed around town and went up the Arch. After lunch at Union Station, we drove to Hays, KS for night.

Tuesday we left Kansas and continued on to Denver, CO. There we put on our rollerblades and explored the downtown area, including 16th Street mall and the Mile High Stadium. West of Denver, we exited I-70 in the neighborhood of Mt. Evans and drove our two-wheel drive Sub up as far as we could on the dirt roads. Then we hiked up a nearby mountain to 11,000 feet. Idaho Springs is a small gold mining town west of Denver, and we stopped there for supper. We decided to stop in at Yellowstone National Park on the way to CA and rent snowmobiles. So we took a road north through the mountains to get on I-80. In the middle of the night going across Wyoming, we were talking with a friendly trucker who was driving with us. He then told us that he thought Yellowstone was closed in the winter. This was news to us so we stopped and checked it out at a truckstop. It was indeed closed so we continued west. Thanks to this trucker for saving us many miles. Drove through Salt Lake City around 3am and reached San Francisco by 2pm on Wednesday. The vehicle we rented has a 50 gallon fuel tank and we can do around 750 miles on a tank full. This served us well going across Utah and Nevada and we did not have to stop once all night.

In San Francisco we went to Fisherman’s Wharf on Pier 39 and enjoyed the gulf shrimp and mahi-mahi at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp House. We drove the streets, including Lombardi St.- the world’s crookedest street, and found a motel for the night. Thursday we rented a three-wheeled scootcar and a scooter to cruise around town with. The weather was beautiful and we saw quite a bit of the city. We had a good time going down all the hills, although we had to get out and push going up some of the steeper ones. We cruised some sidewalks, beaches, Lombardi Street, and even -by accident, the freeway on the Golden Gate Bridge. We checked out the Metreon Sony mall, and the San Francisco Shopping Center- a large shopping area downtown. We took a ride on an old-time cable car. We returned our scooters and went to Outback Steakhouse.

Friday we went out to Muir Woods, a Redwood forest just outside of San Francisco. It was a nice park and we had a good time hiking around in the tropical weather. From there we drove south to LA. We followed Rt. 1 along the coast, but with the curves and towns it would have taken many hours to get there. So we went inland to I-5 and stopped for night in Laguna Beach, a northern suburb of LA. Laguna Beach is a really nice Pacific coast town. We walked Main Street and kicked back in one of many lively restaurants. We had an oceanside motel with a hot tub and balcony outside our room.

Saturday we did laundry at a local Laundromat in Laguna and then drove to Yuma, AZ to be with friends for the weekend. Jed drove us around the dunes in his pickup and later we played some sand volleyball. Stayed in Yuma Sunday and left for San Diego Monday morning.

On the way to San Diego, we stopped at Algodones, Mexico and walked across the border and around this town. There were a lot of vendors selling all sorts of items. We ate lunch in San Diego and did some rollerblading along the beach. We did some more driving around checking out surf shops, etc. I found a very used longboard that I bought for a souvenir. We stayed at a really nice Doubletree Hotel.

Tuesday we toured SeaWorld, and then went to a Circuit City where Tim bought a laptop computer. We also bought another power strip, a UPS (uninterruptable power supply), and more extension cords and network cables for the Sub. Our floor mats are bulging with wires. In LA Wednesday, we cruised Hollywood and Sunset Blvd. and went to the beach with a rented wetsuit to try out the surfboard. We found a cool little Italian café for dinner.

On Thursday we went through Universal Studios, and then left for Las Vegas, NV in the evening. We found an off-strip Days Inn for the rest of the night. Slept until noon and went to the Sahara breakfast buffet. We drove the Strip and walked around in a few casinos. They all had huge free parking garages for our convenience. We watched the Treasure Island pirate ship fight from the sidewalk in front of the casino. The pirates won by sinking the good guys’ ship. These were real-life sized ships and they sank completely in the little pond in front of casino. We’re also amazed by the fountain show outside the Bellagio that shoot 250’ up into the air to the tune of Classical music. We went up the Statosphere tower for a birds-eye view of Vegas at night and then rode the Big Shot ride on the top for another 150’ of air.

Saturday morning we left for Grand Canyon, AZ. We drove by, walked to the rim, and checked out the Visitor Center. Then we drove to Phoenix, AZ for night. On Sunday we met friend David at a Chinese restaurant and then went to a driving range at a golf course to hit golf balls. We had a fun time there with David. We left Phoenix that afternoon and reached San Antonio, TX just as the sun was coming up the next day. We found a barber shop and all got haircuts. We decided to keep driving to New Orleans for the night. Tuesday we slept in and then found some afternoon breakfast in the French Quarter. We did some rollerblading around the Quarter and Riverwalk areas. We ate supper and went back to the hotel in Metaire.

Wednesday we left New Orleans and drove to Gulf Shores, AL. We ate lunch at Lambert’s Café and went out to the beach a little. It was a little cool and we didn’t stay very long. We drove over to Florida and then back to Birmingham, AL. We stayed with friends Ben, Jeffrey, Tim, Nelson, Justin, & Jeremy. Kevin had a friend Jeff in Faunsdale, AL and we stopped in at his place for the night. We played a little volleyball, too. Friday morning Jeff took us to the catfish plant he sold fish to. They gave us an impromptu tour of the plant, and then we left for Huntsville, AL. We were planning to spend some time at the Space Center, but things were so quiet around there we decided to keep driving.

Friday evening we reached Pigeon Forge, TN. We found a nice motel there with an indoor hot tub and pool. We are back in the cold weather of the North. Saturday we goofed around Gatlinburg, playing mini-golf and racing go-carts. We left after lunch and got home Saturday evening.

We have been spoiled to get a large Suburban to travel in. We took the back seat out so it would be possible to fully stretch out in the back, even with the huge mound of luggage and other paraphernalia accumulated between CA and PA. Each of us had his own captain seat and it was a very comfortable way to travel. The computers were networked and we could play games together while navigating. Some truckers made comments about our three laptops when they passed us. And a nine foot surfboard on the roof. It was a fun trip of 9,000 miles in 24 states, lasting nearly three weeks. Everyone should do this at least once in their lifetime.

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